How to Make Friends With Food


Food doesn't have to be a frenemy:

We can't outrun our diets -- for a long time I didn't want this statement to be true. But it is.

I remember sitting around a campfire late one night with my husband-then-boyfriend, when we lived in New Mexico. We got into a discussion with another avid backpacker and exerciser that, essentially, we didn't think a person could exercise away a bad diet.

My husband-then-boyfriend and I shared our passion for movement and, especially, for outdoor workouts, but, equally, we shared the passion for eating good food, and for eating what our bodies needed. In short, we practiced moderation.

Moderation was not easy for me to achieve.

For years, as an eating disordered person, I spent time either consuming an entire pint of ice cream or banning it from my diet. It took me awhile to finally admit that these two patterns went hand in hand: when we ban "bad" foods, or foods that we can't control ourselves around, it fuels this lack of control when we have access to them again, because we know it's limited.

So what I did was simple, but it wasn't easy.

I stocked my freezer, at first with pint-sized ice cream containers and insisted on having part of it, in special little bowls, without just ripping into them with a spoon. There were many nights when I overindulged and wanted to once again ban ice cream from my freezer, but I didn't. I kept trying and doing this, until it registered subconsciously that I would always have ice cream in my freezer, if I wanted it.

I "upgraded" to stocking larger containers of ice cream.

It took trial and error, but it worked -- having foods that scared me around my house helped me to not be afraid of food in general.

When we were younger, my husband-then-boyfriend and I loved having Cheetos as a treat. He always bought smaller bags and I, being frugal, always bought the larger. He -- this guy who has always had an unusually healthy relationship with food -- told me that he didn't know how I could stop myself from continually reaching my hand into the larger-sized bag. I told him that I had "trained" myself.

He moved to New Mexico a college semester before I did. After he moved, I realized that I still wanted to have Cheetos every now and then -- it turned out that my college boyfriend wasn't the only one I kept them around our apartment for.

Yet, still not fully recovered from my eating disorder, foods like that scared the bejeezus out of me. So I, having even less money as a poor student who now didn't have her boyfriend as a roommate, still bought the large-sized bag, but I would come home from the grocery store and immediately divide them into smaller, individual "servings" in Ziploc bags.

However, by the time I moved out to New Mexico, I had already "graduated" and didn't need to divide them up anymore -- I had, again, subconsciously recognized that the Cheetos weren't going anywhere and that I could have more at another time. Because the following is the biggest, overall nugget of truth that I've gleaned on my quest to be an eater of moderation; this is what always helps me to not overindulge.

There is always tomorrow.


I don't need to have a third helping of Cheetos because I can eat more of them tomorrow if I still want them. Spoiler alert: you won't usually wake up thinking about one more cheese curl, or that extra spoonful of ice cream.

This also helps during those times when I do eat a little too much: there's always tomorrow and a healthy diet and, more, a healthy person, is not created by one day of living.

No, our lives are made up of our choices, and our choices become our habits; become our lifestyle, become our days, become our lives, become our stories.

My story sometimes involves ice cream--and sometimes it doesn't. I'll be honest, I don't really eat Cheetos anymore. It's not that I don't like them, but I no longer over-exercise, and they're just not what I typically crave as my indulgence.

But I'm glad that I got out of that trap of needing to workout in order to burn off what I ate the day before -- that's an awful cycle to be in. Now, I move my body because I feel like it, and while I don't eat everything that I sometimes want to, I found another secret of being a balanced eater: I don't find my joy in my food.

Not that I don't love food--I do.

Not that I don't believe that food is something that is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated--I do. But people who are able to say "no" or, as my twin sister and I did when my dad was pouring us milk as kids -- "when" -- know that happiness will never be sitting there waiting at the bottom of an empty ice cream container. And that's the real thing to address: is food something that we are enjoying, or has it become a frenemy?

I made friends with food.

After a long time of being outright enemies, and then frenemies, I made peace with my diet; my diet that I can't outrun or out-lift or out-Pilates.

Sometimes the simplest answer is the one that works. For me, this was true. Food will always be there tomorrow. So will second chances.

So today was a day of choices you wish you hadn't made? The great thing about life is that each day is a new beginning; every day is an opportunity to become a new "best."

It starts with making friends with ourselves.

We can't outrun ourselves either.

The problems that I carried inside moved with me to New Mexico. I had to address them there, unless I wanted them to move with me again, when we got married and moved to Pennsylvania.

Eating too much, running too much, drinking too much: these are all covers for what is going on underneath our surfaces. Self-discovery isn't always fun -- it's not always pretty and easy to deal with -- but it's necessary, if we want to ultimately like ourselves.

My food choices reflect my self-love--the self-love that I worked hard for.

I reached a point in my life years ago, where I got tired of hating myself and tired of having a bad relationship with food -- so I said "when."

The funny thing is that when I stopped fighting, my relationship with food healed almost naturally -- that's why having "scary" treats around the house helped: food wasn't actually my enemy, I was.

And that's how I really became friends with food: I stopped placing my self-love and acceptance into bowls, with my ice cream.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.